Editorial – Feb 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent; Team Rector

At his last supper with his disciples, Jesus said to them ‘It is good for you that I am going away’ (John 16:7). Abba put it slightly differently when they sang ‘Breaking up is never easy, I know, but I have to go. Knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do.’

I know we’re not ‘breaking up’ in the Abba sense, but moving on is not easy. I doubt it was easy for Jesus and his disciples or for Abba, but there came a time when it was right, and the moving on allowed something else to grow. For Jesus and the disciples it was the sending of the Holy Spirit and the growth of the Early Church. For Abba it was new careers. For us and for you, I believe ‘it is good that I go away’, and also that ‘knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do’.

Helen and I have loved our time in The Rivers Team for what will be almost nineteen years. We have made some great friendships and have seen God at work in many lives. We have felt loved and supported during difficult times and have seen much growth and development in the mission and ministry of the church. These are things that we will take away with us and treasure. I trust there are things that you too will treasure.

The decision to move on was not easy, and had many facets to it. In ministry terms I believe that The Rivers Team is in a good place to continue its mission and ministry until a new Team Rector is appointed who will build on the foundations that we have laid together. I also feel that I would like to continue in ministry for longer, but not on a full time basis. And in practical terms, moving on now allows a decent transition for The Rivers Team in terms of the timings of mine, Helen’s and Margaret’s retirements.

Helen and I will be moving to Northamptonshire (Peterborough Diocese) in the middle of February, where I will take up a half-time post on March 2nd, leading The Walgrave Benefice. This is a group of four rural parishes with a total population of 1,900 people. The churches have a vision for mission and church growth and are looking for leadership to help them work more closely together as a joint benefice. Helen will be licenced to the benefice as Associate Priest while continuing with her work for RSCM / Praxis.

God says to all of us, through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Life has its share of change and challenge, of hardships and disappointments, but God’s plans and purposes for us are always for good. We look forward to seeing how his plans for all of you unfold and maybe you will look forward to seeing how his plans for us unfold too.

Editorial – Jan 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

I write this and Christmas is still 10 days away, so I wonder what will have changed by the time you read this?

It’s a little like that with a new year, such a lot of fuss is made and yet it is just the passage of time.

Our concept of time and God’s are so different, we all have a tendency to rush through life and yet perhaps our pace should be a lot slower. How often do we take a break from some things that perhaps we have always done to recharge ourselves? A new year suggests looking back and looking forward too. The custom is to do new things in a new year, but maybe we should be rearranging what we do, not giving things up or doing new things but managing what we do differently.

This new year in the Rivers Team there will be some things done differently. As we say goodbye to David and Helen and wish them God’s richest blessings as they move to a different parish, there are bound be some changes for everyone. Thankfully we know that God has everything in hand and will be with us all where ever we might be led.

One of my favourite Psalms is 139 which just seems so appropriate for the beginning of a New Year reminding us that things do not just happen by chance the Lord has plans for us all which are planned out in his time.

I praise you because you are to be feared;
all you do is strange and wonderful.
When I know it with all my heart.
When my bones were being formed
carefully put together in my mother’s womb
you knew that I was there you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book

May the Lord bless us all in this new year

Editorial – Dec 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

I have just bought my first Christmas present and started to collect the items to go in my shoe box. My dilemma as always is what do I buy? I want my presents to have meaning for those who receive them and it’s so good after Christmas when I see the gift I have bought being used and appreciated.

God did that for each one of us at the first Christmas when he sent his most precious gift for us all his Son Jesus. How are we going to remind folk about what is really behind all the presents that are bought and the celebrations that are held?

It could be the card that’s sent tell of Jesus Birth or the invite to the Carol Service, it does not matter really, only that folk hear the true message and have an opportunity to accept the gift that God gives to everyone who likes to receive it.

We too need to think afresh about what we give to God in grateful thanks to him for his great goodness there is a story that I have come across that
illustrates this so well :

Matty wanted to give God a present. He spent a long time thinking and then wrapping his gift, and when the gifts were given out he told his Mum she could open it for God ‘cos he’s here with us’. Matty’s Mum eased off the sticky tape and undid the gold paper very carefully while the whole family crowded round. Inside was an empty tissue box. Matty’s brother made a face. “It’s just an old box,” he said in disgust. “There’s nothing in it! What would God want with that? “It doesn’t matter what it’s like,” Matty’s Dad said firmly. “None of the rest of us gave anything at all to God. I’m sure God loves Matty’s present.”

But Matty said, “It’s not empty. I filled it with all my hopes and dreams, to give them to God. He can see them, even if you can’t.”

I hope that your Christmas this year is very special and that you truly celebrate this wonderful time of year.

Margaret

Editorial – Nov 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Helen Bent, Associate Vicar

Remembrance Sunday will be particularly poignant this year, as we mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month, one hundred years on from the end of the First World War. Despite expectations, when war broke out, that they would all be home for Christmas, war raged on for over four years with tens of thousands of soldiers wounded or killed on a daily basis. There was huge loss of life on both sides, and village war
memorials bear witness to a generation of husbands, fathers, sons and brothers wiped out.

Recent research into the names on the Brinsworth memorial has drawn attention to the men’s ages. Barely men, many were in their late teens and early twenties. It is not easy reading, but at the same time I have been moved by the stories of selfless courage, heroism and sacrifice. Jesus said: “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13) These local friends and comrades in arms alongside those from the Second World War and subsequent conflicts paid this ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy today.

Recently I have read about the lives of some significant others. British nurse, Edith Cavell served in a hospital in Brussels in enemy-occupied Belgium. She cared for many wounded, but alongside nursing duties she worked with the local Resistance Movement. The daughter of a Norfolk vicar, Edith’s strong Christian faith informed and motivated her actions. In 1915, there was outrage when she was executed by firing squad for her part in enabling many Allied soldiers to escape. On the night before her execution, she spoke to her priest and took her final Holy Communion. She told him: “Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” Challenging words indeed!

On Sunday 4 August 1918, the fourth anniversary of the declaration of war, King George V and Queen Mary joined members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for a special service at St Margaret’s Westminster. The king requested that this day should be observed by all as a national day of prayer. One hundred days later at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, WW1 ended. The following year, the king initiated the two minute silence that we still observe today.

On Remembrance Day, we too will stand together in silence once more to remember all the victims of war during the last century. Let us also pray for a determination to seek after reconciliation and peace between the nations and to harbour no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.

Editorial – Oct 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Revd. Philip Barringer, Pioneer Minister

So it ends, as it began! A glorious summer of sunshine and record temperatures is brought to a close with high winds and heavy rain. Autumn has arrived, and we enter the season of Harvest.

These days, with supermarket shopping, modern farming and access to global markets, harvest perhaps does not resonate in the way it once did, but it remains an important festival in the life of many communities, and of course in the church.

Harvest is a major biblical theme, and an image used to describe the action of God in the world and in our lives, a picture of his Kingdom, and a number of Jesus’ parables draw on this.

One, the parable of the wheat and the weeds, is found in Matthew 13:24-30. It tells of a farmer who sowed good grain, but then his enemy came and sowed weeds amongst it. As the weeds began to grow the farmer instructed his workers not to pull them out, because in doing so they might uproot the wheat. Instead they were told to let both grow together until the harvest, and then at that time to collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into the barn.

God always sows good into our lives and wants to produce in us a fruitful harvest. But there are other influences, things sown into our lives that aren’t so good, and for all of us, life is a curious mix of good, Godly fruit, and weeds. We often struggle with this juxtaposition – the now and the not yet of the Kingdom – and are impatient for God to get rid of the weeds.

God’s focus, however, is always the good harvest, and in his wisdom and mercy he allows the good and the bad to grow together, side by side, until such time as the good fruit can be safely harvested. Then the weeds will be separated out and burned up, and the good fruit gathered into the barns and stored up.

As we enter this harvest season, let us look afresh to God to do a work of separation, to store up in us the good fruit, and to separate out and burn up the weeds

Editorial – Sept 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

It’s great to receive an invitation isn’t it? We put the card up somewhere visible, somewhere we’ll see it often. The card reminds us of the event, and we look forward to it as it gets closer. We feel special because we’ve been included. It reminds us that we matter to those who’ve invited us.

I wonder, what’s been your favourite invitation? I’m sure that on your shelf or bookcase, your window ledge or your fridge, there have been some invitation cards. Maybe for a wedding, a family get-together, a reunion of old friends or workmates, a baptism, a birthday party, a day at the races, a night out with friends?

It’s great to send an invitation too. When we’re choosing who to invite to our special occasions, we think about how they will feel when the invitation arrives. It makes us feel good because we know they’re going to be excited when they open the envelope; delighted to be included in the event. We want to share with people the things we have to celebrate, the things we enjoy, the occasions that matter to us.

Every one of us has experience of inviting and being invited, and we’re really good at it. And knowing God’s love and forgiveness and new life in Jesus surely counts as something that matters to us, something we want to celebrate. So, when was the last time you invited someone to come to church with you?

It’s a challenge isn’t it? All of a sudden sending an invitation doesn’t seem to be so easy, and we can think of lots of reasons not to do it, not least our own embarrassment! Silly isn’t it, when we wouldn’t feel at all embarrassed to invite them to a party?

Research shows that coming through the door of a church for the first time, or returning to church after time away is really hard; and that the greatest success comes when we invite people personally over several opportunities, several invitations.

We’ve got a season of invitation ahead of us, with Back to Church Sunday at the end of September, and our Harvest Festival in October, Remembrance Day in November (a special one this year to mark a 100 years since the end of the 1st world war), and all our Advent and Christmas celebrations in December.

So why not start planning today who you can invite; who you’d like to see sharing in this wonderful journey of faith and fellowship and discipleship! You might even like to produce your own invitation card for them.

Editorial – August 2018

by David Bent; Team Rector

At the last AGM it was agreed that in the future, instead of appointing two churchwardens per church (eight across the team), The Rivers Team would appoint three churchwardens to operate across the whole team. These churchwardens will support the work of newly appointed ’Core Ministry Teams’ in each church, who, with local support, will look after the key churchwarden functions of fabric, pastoral care and worship. Below is an abridged version of how this will work:

Core Ministry Teams
1) In each parish church there shall be appointed a non-statutory Core
Ministry Team (CMT), comprising three lay people who will be nominated by the members of that parish church, according to their gifting.
2) Each CMT member will have responsibility, within their church, for either
a) Fabric, b) Worship, or c) Pastoral Care.
3) Each CMT member will develop a team in their church to help them fulfil this ministry.
4) The extent of the responsibility and duties of each CMT shall be
determined by the Team Council.
5) The Team Council shall authorise one churchwarden to support and
encourage each of these three areas of ministry across The Rivers Team.

Local Church Meetings (replacing DCCs).
1) Local Church Meetings will be attended by one of the clergy and the members of the CMT for that parish church, and will be open to any other person worshipping regularly at that parish church.
2) Each Parish Church shall hold no less than four Local Church Meetings each year.
3) Local Church Meetings will have delegated responsibility, as set out in the ‘Rivers Team Scheme of Delegation’ for matters relating to the life of the local parish church.

Your Role
Each church will need to appoint a Core Ministry Team of three lay people who will each lead a team of people with responsibility for either fabric,
pastoral care or worship. Please pray about your involvement in one of these roles and who else you might see as part of either the CMT in your church, or as a member of the teams they lead. Please also pray about who might fulfil the roles of the three churchwardens across the team.

Other ministries will be set up across the team as the vision unfolds.

We will be holding an extraordinary general meeting in the near future to formally adopt these changes.

Editorial – July 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent; Team Rector

Prayer 20:25

Under the leadership of Bishop Pete, Sheffield Diocese is seeking God for a strategy for the next seven years so that we become a diocese that is both generous and flourishing. This is against a background where church attendance is generally falling, where our congregations are not
representative of the demographics of our communities, where budgets are struggling and where buildings and structures are often out of date.

The strategy, whose goal will be to see the diocese ‘Renewed, Released and Rejuvenated’, will be unfolded at the diocesan conference on October 6th (put the date in your diary), but in the meantime we are all called to pray for our communities, for our churches and for our diocese, and to do it on a regular basis each day. It is through prayer that we release the power and the purposes of God.

A seven-year strategy takes us up to 2025, so the figure 2025 will form a marker post both for the prayer and for the goals of the strategy. To this end, Bishop Pete is encouraging us all to stop what we are doing at 20:25 each day, or at another regular time if this is not possible, and to pray for five minutes for the mission and ministry of the church, and to conclude this time by saying the Lord’s Prayer. How would it be to be to know you are praying with hundreds, or even thousands, of other Christians around the diocese each day? Could you commit to that?

This call to prayer comes after our recent ten days of prayer in the diocese from Ascension Day to Pentecost, which was part of a national initiative called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. Part of this initiative was ‘Pray for Five’ where, as a basis for the mission of the church, we are all asked to pray daily for five people who we know who are not yet followers of Jesus. The following is a suggested guide for the prayer.

Pray for Five

  • Prayerfully choose 5 people to pray for.
  • Take a piece of string or wool and tie a knot in it for each person, praying for them as you do.
  • Wear or carry you string or wool to remind you to pray daily for your five.

Editorial – June 2018

by Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

Over the last few weeks I have been having problems with my e-mail connection. It has been very spasmodic and, on occasions, cutting out at the wrong time for me causing some frustration. Each time my provider has said there seems to be no fault, and to ring back if it happens again.

This morning, enough was enough and so I rang again. And just as I got through, believe it or not, the connection came back on. The operator was very helpful this time and I really felt they were listening. After a check they confirmed that there was a fault which they needed to deal with and I felt very relieved.

This experience started me thinking about my prayer life, which is about communication with God. I know on occasions God just might say to me ‘well, your prayers are little spasmodic!’ I know I don’t use this amazing gift that we are all given as often as I could.

Bishop Pete describes praying as a serious business, and yet often we don’t give it as much priority as perhaps we should. Yet we know and hear regularly about answered prayer.

Jesus said, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Luke 11.9-10)

There is a misconception about what prayer is and yet any conversation with God, spoken or unspoken, is prayer.

I guess we need to make sure that our communication connections are open, and to remember that conversations are two-way, both speaking and listening.

Each month in this magazine we provide a prayer diary for every day of the month and try to cover as much as we can about the Team and our work for God’s Kingdom, along with specific prayers for our world-wide Christian family and, over the course of the months, to pray for every individual on our electoral roll by name. I wonder what amazing things could happen if we all used it at some point during our day.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very same Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

Editorial – May 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Helen Bent, Associate Vicar

Spring has been rather late in South Yorkshire this year. Daffodils were flowering at the beginning of February in Cornwall, but here they were only just coming into bloom at the beginning of April. Nevertheless bloom they did, and now we are awaiting the mass of bluebells in gardens and surrounding woodland. Whether early or late, the turning of the seasons is a tangible assurance of God’s faithfulness. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8.22) This promise is as true today as it was in the days of Noah and his ark, and yet it is so easy to take such things for granted.

Here in Britain, we have quite a reputation for talking (and frequently complaining) about the weather. It doesn’t matter whether it is warm or cold, wet or dry, we will find something to comment on. There are some days when we might experience numerous extremes all within the same twenty-four hours. There is certainly plenty of variety!

I am a keen gardener especially when it comes to home produce. I aim to be able to pick something fresh from the garden all year round if at all possible, so I remain alert to the seasons and changes in the weather. In the vicarage, April is time for sowing seed and May is time for carefully nurturing young plants, hardening them off and transplanting them into the garden. From then on there will be regular watering and weeding until fruit and vegetables are fully grown and ready for harvesting.

Many say they feel close to God in a garden, and certainly the garden provides many helpful insights into God’s faithfulness and prompts for prayer. Indeed, a garden provided Jesus himself with a useful image of the Kingdom of God. When we plant seeds, night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, though we don’t know how. The soil produces growth all by itself, first a shoot, then a stalk, leaves, flowers and finally fruit. All tokens of God’s promises and faithfulness. Seasonal changes, day and night, sun and rain all play their necessary part in producing the harvest.

St. Paul, speaking to the crowds in Athens, reminded them that it is ‘in Christ, that we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17.28) and he was also keen to remind the church in Colosse that in Christ, all things are held together (Col.1.17). How reassuring.

So when we are feeling that inclination to talk about the weather, let’s do so with thanksgiving and use each conversation to point to a faithful God who holds everything together and keeps all his promises.

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